As the Covid-19 vaccination process very slowly gains traction all across the United States, so are vaccine conspiracy theories and myths all over the internet.
Recently, The Winsted Phoenix interviewed Doctor Paul Scalise, Director of Medical Affairs at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital about many of the conspiracy theories surrounding Covid-19 vaccines.
“I think part of the problem is that some people are politicizing the vaccine,” Scalise said. “Also, since there has been a relatively rapid development of the vaccine, it worries some people. But I think that if you take a step back, you can see that mRNA (Messenger RNA) vaccines have been around since the early 1990s.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), vaccines typically work by putting a weakened or inactivated germ in the body to trigger an immune response.
An mRNA vaccine works differently by teaching the body’s cells to make a protein to trigger an immune response, which in turn produces antibodies and protects a person from getting infected.
A Covid-19 mRNA vaccine gives instructions for the cells in a body to make a harmless “spike protein.”
The “spike protein” is found on the surface of the virus that causes Covid-19.
When that protein piece is created, the body’s immune system recognizes it and creates an immune response, protecting it from the Covid-19 virus and any future infections.
However, no vaccine can ever protect people from conspiracy theories and myths on the internet.
The Winsted Phoenix went over several of these myths floating around the internet with Doctor Scalise.
Myth: the vaccine can give you Covid-19 right after it is administered.
“That is not medically possible,” Scalise said. “Unlike other vaccines, the Covid-19 vaccine does not contain any viral particles. There is no dead virus, there is no live virus, and there is no attenuated virus.”
Scalise said that, once you get vaccinated with the first and even after the second dose, it is still possible to get Covid.
“The possibility of getting Covid wanes over time because your immune system improves after you receive the vaccine,” he said. “However, there have been reports of people who have gotten the vaccine, and four to five days later, they get Covid. That is because one or two phenomenons occur: they may have already been infected and asymptomatic at the time of their vaccine. Or, right after their vaccine, they were quickly exposed to the virus.”
Scalise said that even after someone receives the vaccine that they still need to continue to wear a mask, wash their hands frequently, and continue to social distance.
“While this vaccine holds great promise, it is not the panacea,” Scalise said. “Even if you are fully inoculated, where you got two doses, your body still needs the appropriate time to respond. There is still a 95 percent efficacy rate. But that still means five percent of people can still get it. You can still get the virus, but it would not be nearly as severe as it would be without taking the vaccine.”
Myth: the Covid-19 vaccine shortens your lifespan.
“There is no data to support that,” Scalise said. “The argument for many people who don’t want to take this vaccine is that there have been no long term studies about its efficacy. My point is, I’m not sure how they know that it shortens a person’s lifespan when we don’t have a year’s worth of data on it. There is no data to support that.”
Myth: the vaccine causes Bell’s Palsy or stroke in a person.
“I looked at the data from the studies, and that has not been validated,” Scalise said. “Could someone have gotten Bell’s Palsy after they got the vaccine? Certainly. Is it from the vaccine? There has not been a single bit of data that suggests the two are related. Again, most of the time with the Bells Palsy, it’s related to a viral infection.”
Scalise said that from a scientific perspective there is no connection between the vaccine and strokes or Bell’s Palsy.
Myth: you don’t need the vaccine if you have a strong immune system.
“We know that not to be true,” Scalise said. “Initially, we saw that the virus only affected the elderly who had immunosuppression. But we have seen plenty of young people with no immunocompromised diseases contract the virus and some of them have succumbed to it. We are finding that more and more young people are getting it and getting sick from it.”
Scalise said that, while a good immune system will help you, it does not make you immune from Covid-19.
“Having a good immune system does not give you absolution from Covid-19,” Scalise said.
Myth: the vaccine will change your DNA.
“From a molecular biology perspective, it can’t ever affect your DNA because the vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell where your body’s DNA is stored,” Scalise said. “The vaccine enters into the cytoplasm of the cell, which is outside of the nucleus. In the cytoplasm of the cell, the vaccine is converted into a protein. Again, it never enters into the nucleus of the cell where your body’s DNA is stored.”
Myth: you could die right after you get the vaccine.
“You could, but there’s no relation to getting the vaccine and dying,” Scalise said. “You can be perfectly healthy and get the vaccine, and you might have a heart attack. But there’s no connection to one and the other. I know of no data from these trials that say that the mortality rate was greater after people were vaccinated. Are there possible allergic reactions? Yes. Has anyone died from allergic reactions? No one that I know of.”
Myth: vaccines are being used to implant microchips that were created by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
“That’s just not the case,” Scalise said. “What would be the purpose of it? Would it be to follow a person? We leave enough of a trail as it is by the use of the internet and our phones. We don’t need a microchip put in us for the government to follow us. When you do a search on your phone looking for sneakers, the next thing you know all of these ads for sneakers show up on your phone. You’re like, how did that happen? We already leave a trail by our use of technology. I don’t think you even need to put a microchip into a person.”
Despite all of the myths floating around on the internet, Scalise insists that the Covid-19 vaccines are safe.
“If we don’t do our part to get vaccinated, we can count on having to wear masks, social distance, and having our society act the way it does now, for years to come,” he said. “We need to get a majority, 75 percent of our society, vaccinated. The sole purpose of the virus is to replicate, get inside people, and continue to live in each person. The more people that are available for the virus to get inside and replicate, the more of a chance that they will mutate into something more contagious and more transmissible. If we don’t do our part and get vaccinated, I don’t see how things could ever get any better for any of us.”